Predator safety in spotlight following attacks

North West agriculture minister Jan Serfontein and interest groups are to try to develop a standardised programme for working with predators.

“The province does not have a formal programme to train farmworkers to work with predators in captive breeding programmes,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

He intends to work with the Department of Labour, the Breeders’ Association and other interested parties to see if a standardised training programme can be put in place as soon as possible. It will focus particularly on safety.

“Simply shutting down the industry is not practical nor possible, so the solution lies in empowering workers and owners to work safely with the animals,” said Serfontein.

His comments follow a lion attack on Tuesday on the farm Uitspan, near Mafikeng. David Moloana (50), of Mareetsane village, was killed while cleaning a drinking pen situated in a smaller enclosure inside a larger lion cage.

The drinking pen was designed to be accessible from outside the lion cage. Moloana, it appeared, entered the main cage—where the lions were—for reasons still unknown. According to police, all that was left of him were his fingers and intestines.

The owner of the Uitspan farm, Ben Joubert, had the necessary authorisation to breed and keep the lions. His facilities were also compliant with the law.

The majority of captive lion breeding and hunting in the country takes place in the North West. There are 56 registered predator breeding farms containing an estimated 1 800 lions.

The Department of Labour for its part urged workers to take charge of their own health and safety in the workplace.

Spokesperson Zolisa Sigabi said: “The department has emphasised that occupational health and safety in the workplace remain the responsibility of everyone, including workers themselves, to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.”

Also on Tuesday, another man was killed by lions in the Lion Park in Muldersdrift, north of Johannesburg, according to a South African Broadcasting Corporation news report. The man was not an employee at the park and it was unclear how the attack happened.—Sapa

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